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March 24, 2017

The Rhetoric of Code

March 24, 2017 | By | No Comments

When working to persuade an audience, one assumes to mostly wrestle with whatever’s rendered on the other side of the code. The archaic mess of symbols tucked under the rug of GitHub files is kept cleanly from view—or especially interest—from the community I work with, because the rhetoric of the rendered site seems to be what counts most, the public face with the most agency. For example, as I continue to construct my site for Filipinx-American spaces, I begin to lean more heavily toward the Fil-Am community in terms of their needs and how the website could possibly contribute to meeting those needs. The process is a loop wherein I present the current manifestation of the site to community members with an assumption toward their needs, and their feedback corrects those assumptions, sending me back to the rebuilding of the site. The feedback loop continues (on and on, it seems, at this stage of the semester). None of them care for how I manipulate code, nor do I think to persuade them of my hefty inelegant patchwork of code adopted from several online spaces.

This last week, however, I’d been introduced to the rhetoricity of code, adding yet another layer to community work and the persuasive complexity within digital literacy.

At this year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication, Dr. Kevin Brock’s presentation “Treating Code as a Persuasive Argument” drew attention away from the often emphasized instrumental power of code toward its rhetorical capacity. Exploring a user’s proposal on Ruby Rails to improve code logic’s efficiency in determining a default layout, Brock revealed how the discourse of the proposal’s reception illuminated code’s ability to perform, measure against existing code, measure in terms of readability, measure in potential to bring further code improvements, and demonstrate potential applicability to other pages. The prioritized elements of code logic and representation point to the particular values of a digital discourse, one that may inform the persuasiveness and argument underlying any proposed code.

Fortunately for now, crafting a persuasive set of code is beyond my skill set. Admittedly, I’m not so discriminant in finding and adopting a code as long as it renders something decipherable and functional on the other end. Despite this, I can appreciate Dr. Brock’s insights into the rhetoricity of code which sheds light on the engagement of programmers and communities behind the scenes as another complex discourse that digital literacy grapples with. It also brought to my attention the idea of how adoption of certain codes for particular functions could culturally rewrite the code’s original use in the community, consequently helping to disperse a re-appropriated version. An example of this could be the innocent use of codes traditionally (and originally) used for listing as a new means for paragraph indenting. In these ways, code evolves as any other language, though with functionality seemingly dictating the values and hence direction of its evolution (for now, and put in extremely simplified terms).

In a sense, with digital composing, I realize I don’t just work with the community that drives my content. Especially with a public repository on platforms like Github, I could also potentially be engaging with the coding community.

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February 9, 2017

Building the Project Narrative

February 9, 2017 | By | No Comments

As my project starts to move into a more intelligible form, I’d like to share a few of the new features on the beginning pages. Initially, my plan was to focus on three waves of Filipinx immigrants and where they settled in Michigan. Each wave would have its own page, showcasing movement and settlement. However, it meant an extensive pursuit of data, and to make room for time constraints and limited skill, I resolved to focus only on post-1965 groups since they seemed to be potentially informative for contemporary concerns of displacement and urban planning.

I’ve settled on two current Filipinx and Asian American spatially representative sites, and have started wrapping up analysis on the impact of one of them, but something about the accumulating narrative of the site still fell short for me. The pictures and stories of the first groups of APA immigrants kept coming back, providing a fuller arc in the discussion of what it means to be a citizen, and I realized this would be an important underlying consideration as users explore the later pages about continuous efforts to carve out space for cultures.

As a result, I created a beginning page with maps highlighting some of the first Filipinx immigrants’ residences in Ann Arbor and Detroit. By some stroke of luck, I managed to create a toggling button for seeing map layers of these residences by decade. Users would ideally be able to click on specific decades, gradually populating the map with the general areas of initial settlement. Markers are also written with popups that reveal the name, year registered in the Bureau of Insular Affairs, address, major/job, and school. If my luck persists, I hope to also overlay the maps with circled areas that represent urban development affecting residential areas. Populating these maps will take some time and the data will be nowhere near exhaustive, but it will provide an interesting portrait of the general areas of immigrant settlement.

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January 29, 2017

Gathering Data of Immigrant Movement in Detroit

January 29, 2017 | By | No Comments

During the break, I started gathering data for Filipino-American settlement and representation in Michigan, and my first stop was the city of Detroit. Michigan is already a difficult state for this type of search because many of the first wave immigrants came through Hawaii, the West Coast, and Illinois. I believed Detroit would be a promising start because though the first Filipino students came in through Ann Arbor, many Filipino migrants were drawn to work in the auto industry. In my mind, I imagined populating a digital map with the general movement of these immigrants, the neighborhoods they would eventually settle in, and the commercial and community establishments that would later develop from the diverse population.

Instead, I ran into dead ends. After a week of relentless research, I concluded it still exceptionally difficult to unearth Asian American histories in this area of the Midwest – thus, perhaps all the more crucial. Most of what I found written about Filipinos coming to Detroit focused on whether they were civilized or not. In one memorable example, an article in the Detroit Free Press highlighted the city’s first Filipino in 1904 with a discussion of his white overseer’s compassion in bringing the Filipino child over and an excerpt from his school writing to show how his exceptional grammar and English skills proved Filipinos could be made civilized. I doubled back and gathered the addresses of the Filipino students that came through between 1917 and 1921, hoping to find their story, but I was met with silent fates, mostly implied displacements from major (discriminatory) zoning laws and urban developments. This is to say that the work of unearthing these histories is a struggle—and necessary to move beyond denigrating frames of specific cultures. Still, traces are coming through, and reminding me that Filipinos had a role in forming the city.

One particularly case is the neighborhood of Cass Corridor which is now the target of gentrification. Filipinos and other immigrants who were pushed into the crime-infested area had helped built into a solid ethnically-diverse community. They opened businesses, introduced new foods, and celebrated culture in impactful ways, which the city then marketed for profit. Cass Corridor’s fate isn’t new if we look at Chicago’s Wicker Park or Cabrini Green. And beyond providing marketable culture, immigrants’ place-making in host cities has helped redevelop decaying urban and economic infrastructures.

With over 100 years of Asian Americans in Detroit, the community’s displacement due to zoning measures, prejudice, and urban planning has contributed to such movements as the upheaval and transfer of an entire Chinatown, relocation to the suburbs or other states, and migrations to low-income, crime-infested downtown areas such as Cass Corridor. These transferences have provided a challenge for sustainable Asian American communities, making the Asian American presence—despite its numbers—struggle to be representative in the public sphere. To then represent these movements on a digital map relies on what little spatial data can be found: the general movement of neighborhoods and snapshots of APA material sites that assert claims to space before erasure.

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December 9, 2016

Digitally Locating Hidden Spaces

December 9, 2016 | By | No Comments

I’ve been predominantly considering digital maps as a means of telling stories of communities. It could be that I’m a newbie at most things digital, but perhaps there’s something comforting in reclaiming space for the less represented or participating in the production of space on something seemingly so authoritative as a map. Interested in the visible physical markers of place and its effect on the public sphere, I have been drawn to how digital maps can facilitate an easy and tangible location and image for such physical data, but what about the spatial representations that haunt cityscapes and memory? What about the of tracing of movement, or representation of the dynamic and elastic boundaries of contested space? Just as impactful as the accuracy of pinning place on a digital map, revealing the intimate relations of communities and their city across space and time highlights the fissures and gaps of a city’s formal representations—the work scholars are often trying to do in order to contest dominant claims of space and sustain public dialogue and activity within the city. Beyond my own project which relies on the physical visibility of space, these questions are important for discovering digital opportunities for overlaying the city with more public means of sharing engagement with space.
The urgency to represent hidden place knowledges was made most apparent this last summer when I studied the physical landscape of downtown Atlanta for lingering traces of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. Just ten years prior, the city celebrated the centennial commemoration of one of the city’s darkest passages in history, an internationally publicized four-day race riot wherein white mobs killed dozens of black citizens, injured many others, and destroyed downtown business properties. The riot had a national effect on race relations, and is still an important memory for many of Atlanta’s citizens. With outstanding public and government support, the centennial commemoration in 2006 brought back its history and lessons with wide impact. Goshal’s (2013) incredible study of 26 racial violence commemorations since 1979 placed the riot’s commemoration among the top 13 in impact, though interestedly it was the only one to be completely absent of physical markers. As I walked around downtown, I found sites alluding to the riot’s famous locales, such as Herndon’s barbershop which was destroyed by the mob, but tells a different story of entrepreneurship. Other riot spaces have been replaced with the city’s narratives of business and entrepreneurial spirit.
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Without the physical markers, only continuous public activity keep these stories alive. Additionally, with the recent passing of the beloved professor and tour guide Dr. Clifford Kuhn, the Atlanta Race Riot walking tour no longer resurrects the riot’s events in place. When physical markers are not possible and public activity is limited or cut off from various possibilities, I wonder what digital tools provide in restoring these intimate relations to the city, especially when the city’s places no longer mirror back what exists in publics’ minds.
Some locative media projects have allowed innovative means to fill this need outside basic uses of personalized digital maps. Previous projects have allowed users to record themselves on personal ‘walking tours’ of their neighborhoods and city, as well as access others’ recordings when visiting an area. Such collaborative new media and apps serve as a sort of participatory repository of place stories, interrupting ordered space with shared hidden knowledges of a locale (. Locative media has seemed to have dropped off since its early 2000’s enthusiasm, however. I was disappointed to find that Murmur, a web-based map with tag sites to store public stories and memories of places in Toronto and Montreal is no longer accessible. Nonetheless, I’m excited to continue researching new digital tools for facilitating public participation in public spaces and memory, especially as the face of physical cityscapes are increasingly unable to purvey these hidden knowledges.

References

Crang, M. & Graham, S. (2007). Sentient cities ambient intelligence of urban space. Information, Communication, & Society, 10(6): 789-817. doi: 10.1080/13691180701750991

Goshal, R.A. (2013). Transforming collective memory: mnemonic opportunity structures and the outcomes of racial violence memory movements. Theory and Sociology, 42, 329-350. doi: 10.1007/s11186-013-9197-9

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November 23, 2016

Mapping the movement of community spaces

November 23, 2016 | By | No Comments

As evidenced through this month’s blog posts, the CHI cohort is putting together their initial plans for our main project. I had initially wanted to focus on how nostalgia imprints itself and is used on physical places as a means of sustaining culture; however, the initial approach had only considered the process of this dynamic between the Filipino-American community and their physical places, and not perhaps their degree of agency to do so within the public sphere. Compared to the Asian American and Pacific Islander places/spaces I’ve grown up witnessing as part of the public fabric of California, the difficulty of finding these presences in the Midwest points to the possibility of APIA culture moving from public to private spaces.

Fil-Am history prominently began in the Midwest in the early 1900s and has had opportunity to establish signs of their community. California and Hawaii were receiving the majority of Filipino laborers, but the Midwest, particularly states like Michigan and Illinois, received government-sponsored students (the pensionados) up until the 1930s. These student communities blossomed into immigrant communities, and to navigate racial and economic pressures, they created and took part in community organizations which emerged, scattered, and blended with other groups during the passing decades and changing waves of immigration (Posadas & Guyotte, 1990). By looking closer at past and present communal spaces in major cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor, my project intends to ask: (1) What forms of societal/behavioral regulation spur the removal or displacement of previously Filipino spaces? (2) What unique challenges make them particularly vulnerable and/or capable of asserting a more democratized space within the fabric of the public sphere?

Through the use of a digital map, the project will approach these questions by profiling some Filipino communal spaces (mostly commercialized, neighborhood, and community center spaces) in terms of causes for their emergence and influences to their growth in order to deduce what and how conflicting public narratives and pressures impact these spaces. The aim of this mapping project is not just to provide an exploration of the forms and nature of the Filipino public sphere, but to provide a spatial means of envisioning their displacement (or diminishment) from past and present locales. It also, alternatively, serves as a means of uncovering and rewriting Filipino spaces onto major maps; what was once invisible can then have a visible presence to establish a significant cultural lineage. Finally, the map can have the additional purpose of highlighting causal pressures for the removal or dispersal of Filipino spaces which can inform thought on urban governance, community organizing, and the growing fallacy of democratic publics.

References

Posadas, B.M. and Guyotte, R.L. (1990). “Unintentional Immigrants: Chicago’s Filipino Foreign Students Become Settlers, 1900-1941.” Journal of American Ethnic History 9(2): 26-48.

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October 10, 2016

Visualizing Place Analytics: Big Data, Smart Cities, and the Question of Democracy

October 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

                This last week, we discussed Geospatial visualization tools to aid the creation, display, and emphasis of geospatial analytics. As a researcher of the rhetoric of place and space, that is, the communicative relationship between citizens and locales, I’ve been eager for ways to represent the various forms of this relationship digitally. Being your about average digitally literate citizen, I immediately thought of Google Maps and its standard use as representative of what geospatial tools could do. So if I were to present research on the dominant revolutionary narrative of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, for instance, toggling between Google Map’s Street and Roadmap views, could visually demonstrate material influences: the landmarks, layout of political buildings, and topography, so forth, alongside a discussion of how these spaces are “socially crafted” through behavioral acts.

For your average user, Google Maps’ ability to visualize and navigate the material domains of space means it wouldn’t upfront tell us much about social and political dynamics of a site. This made it easier for scholars like myself to simplify the use of the interface to represent the material. However, great strides in geospatial software and Big Data, in general, mean that analytics on locales have the potential of revealing much much more. I refer mostly to how Big Data has contributed to the creation of Smart Cities, cities wherein sensors gather, analyze, and interpret large sets of data to track anything from resource consumption, traffic rates, Wifi availability, to even grants for the arts. Talk about your options for visualizing certain place-based analytics! By combining a series of metrics, a “CityScore” can indicate a city’s overall health, and cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York have already begun to rely on Big Data’s ability to represent place to improve efficiency, resources, and the engagement of citizens.
Though Smart Cities are still a relatively new way of ‘visualizing’ place, discussions of its benefits are rolling in. Though its ability to make cities more efficient is obvious, there have also been insights as to its democratic benefits. Place data from city-wide sensors could allow more equitable distribution of resources among poor and rich neighborhoods, and as The Economist predicts, could have allowed a quicker response to prolonged tragedies such as Flint’s water crisis.
The idea of Smart Cities links Big Data with an improved democratic infrastructure. However, in the same way that citizens can ‘supposedly’ be self-governing in a democracy, could they do the same in an ever-growing and changing digital universe of Big Data?
A large part of the democratic challenges involves the digital citizens to be informed users, particularly from Big Data privacy issues. Big data breaches aside, Jonathan Obar (2015) asserts that the individual’s limited time to educate themselves on multiple terms of service statements, private policies, and hidden data brokers combined with the rapid evolution of Big Data, as well as its lack of transparency make it nearly impossible to be an informed digital citizen. This limitation on privacy and knowledge has already bit back at Smart Cities’ data access as Seattle’s citizens have protested against tracking methods, thus leading to the implementation of data-protection officers.
The ability of digital tools to represent more than material space is quickly becoming an alarming reality. As a researcher in place/space, I’m excited for this more robust view of place dynamics. Furthermore, what is done with that data can have amazing results in the hands of the right people, but individual consent and say in its use may still remain an afterthought to innovation.

References

Goldsmith, S. (2015). “Protecting Big Data.” Data Smart City Solutions. Retrieved from http://datasmart.ash.harvard.edu/news/article/protecting-big-data-742

“How Cities Score.” (2016). The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21695194-better-use-data-could-make-cities-more-efficientand-more-democratic-how-cities-score

Obar, J. A. (2015). “Big Data and The Phantom Public: Walter Lippmann and the Fallacy of Data Privacy Self-Management.” Big Data & Society (2015):1-16. Doi: 10.1177/2053951715608876

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September 30, 2016

Fellow Introduction

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello! I’m Stephanie Mahnke, a second-year PhD student in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. I got my undergraduate degree in English Literature at UCLA, but after that, I spent many years abroad and working at community colleges. It was during that break between undergrad and grad that I developed interests in community-building and the rhetorical power of places/spaces. As a PhD student, my main research interests include Filipinx rhetorics, the rhetoric of place/space, identity-place inter-relationships, and network and mapping theories. More specifically, I focus on critical understandings of place as rhetoric as a means of support for civic purposes and sustaining cultural histories.

denver (2) My research has revolved around cultural geographies, particularly how physical sites work toward cultural memory/forgetting. Recent work has included analysis of cultural sites in Egypt, Atlanta and Las Vegas. My work and place/space lens has also lent contribution to other area studies, such as collaboration with a Las Vegas environmental group which sought public participation for conservation efforts. This research ultimately leads to my current work on how nostalgia and culture are sustained in Filipinx communal spaces in their new host countries. The results of such a study, I believe, works to sustain cultural narratives but also reveal the hidden geographies of underrepresented cultures such as those in the Filipinx and Asian American Midwest communities. My hope is to eventually use digital spaces as repositories and engaging platforms to represent the place data in rich, highly accessible, non-linear formats such as interactive maps and networks. Being a CHI fellow brings me closer to that realization, and I’m very excited to work alongside such a brilliant cohort of scholars!